The early Catholic history of Florham Park is bound up with that of its neighbor, Madison. The presence in Madison of refugees from the French Revolution caused the founding of Saint Vincent’s Church as early as 1805. In 1856 the Bishop of Newark purchased property in what is now Florham Park as the site of a diocesan college, Seton Hall. When Seton Hall moved to South Orange in 1860, the site became the home of the Sisters of Charity, and eventually of their academy and college. Even today the Academy of Saint Elizabeth is the only high school in Florham Park.
After World War II growth in northern New Jersey caused attention to be paid to the growing Catholic community in Florham Park. Monsignor John Dauenhauer, pastor of St. Vincent’s and Vicar General of the Paterson Diocese, along with Florham Park Mayor Alexander Blanched, a descendant of one of the French émigré families, planned for a mission in the borough which would be entrusted to the care of the curate at St. Vincent’s, Father John P. O’Connell. On the first Sunday in January, 1951, the feast of the Holy Family, Father “O” began offering Mass in the Florham Park Roller Rink for an initial 80 Catholic families.
From that modest beginning, plans moved quickly. The “holy rollers,” as they styled themselves laid plans for a parish complex. Lloyd Smith, a local philanthropist and developer of Afton Village homes, donated the site of the church, including the building that served as the sales office and equipment shed for the builders. Ground was broken in October 1951, and the church was formally blessed by Archbishop Thomas A. Boland on Thanksgiving Day 1952.
Attention was then paid to building a parish school for the growing number of children. As the school and convent were being constructed, the Sisters of Christian Charity from Mendham, New Jersey, were enlisted to staff the school which opened its doors in September 1954. Those early days reached a climax in December 1954 when Holy Family was formally elevated to parish status with Father O’Connell as first pastor. During the 1960s additional property was purchased to allow the construction of a school addition, including an-auditorium-gymnasium (1962) and a new rectory (1966). By the tenth anniversary of the church in 1962, the school had reached its peak enrollment of 710 students.
In 1988 Monsignor O’Connell retired and was succeeded as pastor by Father Paul Longua. Under a new pastor Holy Family established and reorganized liturgical ministries, social outreach, and community endeavors. During this time demographic and financial realities imperiled the future of Holy Family School, and under Father Paul’s leadership the parish school crisis was addressed and the school’s future became to be secured. The culmination of Father Paul’s decade as pastor was a successful capital campaign to upgrade and renovate the parish buildings. The highlight of this effort was the rededication of the renovated church in March 1998.
Monsignor Longua resigned the pastorate in 1997 and was succeeded by Father Raymond J. Kupke. As Holy Family celebrates its fiftieth anniversary, it is a vibrant parish of some 1600 families engaged in living the faith at the dawn of a new millennium.